At least two dozen people have died in a shoot-out in a police operation against an organized crime gang in Rio de Janeiro. It was one of the worst death tolls from a police raid in the city's history.
A shootout in Rio de Janeiro left at least 25 people dead on Thursday, in a police raid targeting drug traffickers.
It was the second highest-ever death toll from a police raid in the state, which has long been plagued by drug and gang-related violence. One police officer died in the violence. The rest of the deceased were suspected of being involved with gangs.
"This number of deaths only compares to the massacres of Vigario Geral and of Baixada [21 and 29 deaths, respectively], but these were extra-legal operations. One must hold accountable the political agents responsible for this action," said the Study Group of New Illegalisms at the Federal Fluminense University (UFF) coordinator Daniel Hirata, according to the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper.
Police said they were attempting to infiltrate the Comando Vermelho (Red Commando) drug gang. Police added that they located the gang's headquarters in the Jacarezinho favela of Rio de Janeiro, and arrested at least ten suspects.
Passengers on a passing train were caught in the crossfire in Jacarezinho. At least two train passengers were injured by stray bullets. The fire brigade said they were not seriously hurt. After a temporary suspension, the train line was soon back in service.
Local residents were forced to stay inside during the gunfight. Globo TV images showed police fighting suspected criminals in the street. Some suspects fled via rooftop while carrying rifles. There have been several reports of bodies lying in alleyways and inside a house as well as accusations of home invasion and torture by the police.
The Red Commando gang was accused of recruiting minors. The civil police reportedly carried out Operation Exceptis on Thursday morning, after receiving information from the Police Department for the Protection of Children and Adolescents.
The Red Commando is alleged to engage in drug trafficking, cargo robbery, and murder. The group hijacked Rio de Janeiro's rapid transit trains in December 2020 and again last month according to Brazilian media.
The operation occurred despite a Supreme Court ruling that bars police from carrying out raids in Brazil's favelas during the ongoing pandemic except in "absolutely exceptional circumstances."
kbd/rc (AFP, Reuters)